Hard Todays but Optimistic Tomorrows by Emma Jensen

“I’m okay.”

I never thought the words I absolutely hate the most would be coming out of my mouth. They sound so helpless to me, like a cry from a weak voice. I’m not weak, but in this moment I feel anything but strong.

“You aren’t okay, Ash,” says Justin. He is my best friend, and it really bugs me that he can sense I’m not okay just from listening to my voice.

“Justin, I’m fine. I promise.” I try to sound strong while I talk, but I can hear the shakiness in my voice. I know it’s enough to fool him over the phone.

“Are you absolutely positively sure?” he asks.

I need to lie to him again, and I know nothing good will come from it, but I hate worrying people, especially Justin. I shake off the thoughts in my head and go ahead with my lie. “I am wonderful, Justin. I am absolutely positively sure,” I say. Now I sound really helpless. I was determined not to sound like a weak little girl with “bullying problems.” Justin already knew about the things people said, but I always told him that words didn’t hurt me, and he believed me for some stupid reason. It all started in grade 6, the bullying I mean. I was never the perfect girl, but honestly who is? My height was a problem. Now even at fourteen I am only 4’9, which is extremely short where I come from. I am definitely not skinny either; there is no doubt about that. My mom calls me “Peach” because of my shape. She says it’s just a nickname, but really, who wants to have the nickname “Peach”?

There is this one girl, Ally White, who is pretty close to perfect. All the girls are constantly being compared to what Ally looks like or how Ally acts. Everyone finds her so pleasant, but I just find her plain mean.

“What are you going to wear for that stupid spring formal thing?” asks Justin. I’m making him go. I told him he needs to get a better social life and actually interact with other people.

“I have no idea. Everything I own makes me look fat or peachy, like mom would say,” I laugh a little when I say that, but I know for certain it is true.

“Are you kidding, Ash? You don’t look fat in anything; you’re tiny!” Justin exclaims. I laugh again, thinking how wrong he is.

“You don’t. Me and you both know it,” he says. If only I could believe everything my best friend says, I would have a much happier life.

“Oh, Justin,” I say, “you don’t know the first thing about girls, do you?” I hear him laugh on the other line, and I smile.

“Oh, Ashley, I would if I could, but I can’t seem to figure out anything,” he says. It’s true; girls are kind of confusing, and I know it. I don’t seem to understand why Justin has put up with me this long. I am quite annoying. He’s definitely a tough one; he’s been there for the highs and lows and even the break-ups.

I hear a rustling downstairs, and I realize it’s 5 o’clock and that mom is home. I don’t have my homework done, and I know she is going to kill me. Before I know it, she’ll be storming up the stairs, pounding on my door, yelling at me for being useless. My mom loves me, I know that, but she has a lack of patience.

“Hey, Justin, sorry I have to go. Mom’s home,” I say.

“Alright, I’ll talk to you later, Ash. Have fun dealing with the dragon.” Justin laughs, but I know deep down he has some sympathy for me. I hit the red button on my phone screen and don’t even have the chance to get off my bed when my mom whips open my door.

“Ashley, what are you doing? It’s already five and you’re just sitting here being a slob,” she yells. My poor mother. She works all the time and comes home each night exhausted. Her name, Celene Matthews, a perky travel agent with a lazy teenage daughter. She had me young, at sixteen. When my deadbeat dad found out, he ran, not wanting to be a part of my life at all.

It takes me a minute to realize I am staring into nothing and am probably driving my mom crazy.

“Hey, you over there looking into nothing, are you going to help me with supper or just be a waste of space?” my grumpy mother asks. She’s got one hand on the doorframe and the other on her hip. Her eagle eyes stare me down, and the deep red on her lips makes me nervous.

“Yes, Mom, I’m coming,” I say with an eyeroll. She carefully backs out of my room, keeping her eyes fixed on me. When I finally hear her going down the stairs, I get off my bed and slide my phone into the back pocket of my denim shorts. I trip on a Biology textbook on the way out of my room, but I’m quick to get up. It has been about two months since I’ve cleaned my room, typical teenager I guess.  

The carpet on the stairs has started to lose its softness and is no longer comfy. You can see the various stains from food, paint, and Mom’s wine. The stairs curve at the bottom and lead you right into the kitchen, freshly stocked with food from Mom’s recent grocery run. The marble countertops are in need of a wiping, and the cupboards are slowly collecting dust. Our hardwood floors are full of scrapes and scratches and no longer have the glossy look they used to have when Mom first bought the house.

My mother is steadily cutting carrots on the kitchen island, the garbage can beside her filled with orange peelings. Her manicured hands have a firm grip on the knife she’s holding, but she looks tense. I can see a bag of potatoes sitting on the floor beside her, waiting for me to peel them.

“So what’s on the menu tonight, Mom? Anything fancy?” I ask. She looks up from her chopping for a second to give me a smile. She must be in a better mood.

“Oh, nothing fancy, Peach, just chicken, mashed potatoes, and carrots. I’ve got the potatoes right here waiting to be cut up.” She gestures to the bag beside her on the floor, obviously meaning it is my job. I walk across our kitchen and slide a cutting board out of one of our bottom cupboards. I set it on the counter and go to grab a knife from the drawer. I take the potatoes and wash them then set them on the cutting board and start peeling off the rough skin.

Mom and I work in silence as usual, only worrying about our jobs. I steadily continue to wash and cut, putting the potatoes into the water-filled pot on the stove. My mother has yet to look over at me, too busy making precise cuts. Supper has always been the only meal I help with, only because I have my mom’s help. I finish it up, turn on the stove, and put the lid on the pot.

“Hey, Mom, can I go finish some homework I have?” I ask. She doesn’t look up at me, only nods.

I get to my room and plug my phone into the charger. My screen lights up and is filled with notifications like crazy. I pick it up to see what it is and realize it’s not texts but comments. I had posted a picture earlier on Instagram of me and a friend at the beach. It was cute, I had thought. The wind was making our hair blow, and the sun was perfect. I had gotten my mom to take it for me, and even she thought it was cute. As I quickly type in the password to my phone, I get a glance at the comments. They say things like “ugly” and “slutty much lol”. We were wearing bikinis; how is that slutty? Who is saying this stuff? Why are they saying it? One of the comments is from Ally White, go figure, and the other from some boy I’ve never even met before. But the sad part is this isn’t the first time this has happened.

I quickly delete the photo, knowing keeping it on there will just mean more hate. I’m used to it by now. This is practically an everyday occurrence in my world. Everyone hates me, or so I think. I am definitely not liked by at least half of our class. It doesn’t help that perfect little Ally tells everyone stupid little rumours about me and Justin. He has tried to shut them down, but I tell him not to. There is no point. It won’t do anything but make them hate us more.

In November I started writing down every little thing that goes on with me. It brings me some kind of comfort that I don’t get by telling people things. In about 4 months I filled a 192-page journal with my life. That journal was the only thing that kept me sane, and I found it almost de-stressing, I guess you could say. The book has hidden under my pillow forever because I know if anyone finds it, they’ll think I need some type of help. The colorful pens and sticky notes I use make it somewhat relaxing to write in. Before, I couldn’t even write a sentence without getting bored. I guess your life is a lot more interesting when it’s crap.

Right now as I stare at my no good phone, I know I need to write, but I used up my last page last night writing about my pregnant teenage cousin. I was certainly disappointed in her, she is only 16. So I wasted my last piece of paper on my pregnant cousin, a terrible way to end off a book, in my eyes. I should have ended it off with something happy because about 75% of that journal was all bad stuff. The other 25% was just scribbles and drawings from when I was bored. I now regret doing that because I would have had a lot more room to write when I really needed to.

I grab one of my old binders from my closet and tear out a piece of loose leaf. If I can’t write in a book, I might as well just write on this. I take my colorful pens from off my desk and slide open my window. There is a small ledge outside of my window, just large enough for me to sit on. I very carefully put one leg through the window and then the other, trying to balance without my hands that are holding my paper and pens. The rough shingles scrape my leg a little bit but not enough to make it bleed. I reach back through the window and grab a sweater hanging off the side of my bed to sit on. It makes it a little more comfortable, like sitting on the grass.

My paper is set on my knee because I have no hard surface to put it on. My writing will be very messy, but I don’t care. I just need to let everything flow out of me and on to this crumpled piece of paper. My blue pen works the best, and it’s my favorite to use, so I take off the lid and grip the pen in my hand. I start writing, and I let all the anger and sadness come out of me. I may write forever, maybe miss supper even. Today was a bad day. Well, it was one of the many bad days. But oh well, I’m sure tomorrow will be better.   





Emma Jensen is a fifteen-year-old girl from small town Saskatchewan. She found herself writing short stories and poetry at the age of thirteen and has kept at it ever since. Along with writing she enjoys the outdoors, sports, and photography!

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